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.Stephen R. Bown has crafted a masterful read in his study of the six major companies...Despite the manifold evils he documents, Mr. Bown manages to put the companies into historic perspective...[A] book that is at once intriguing and disturbing.. (Washington Post 2011-03-18)
.In Merchant Kings...Bown chronicles the lives of six men who governed and shaped the world as we know it. He deftly interweaves detailed story and back-story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessibly style, he recounts the achievements -- and the shame -- of these mercantile actors.. (Vancouver Sun 2009-08-18)
.Calgary historian Stephen Bown...has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures: Jan Coen operating in what is now Indonesia; Pieter Stuyvesant in New York; Robert Clive in India; Aleksandr Baranov in Alaska; George Simpson in Canada, and Cecil Rhodes in Africa. Excellent biographies exist for them all, and Bown does not repeat that work. Rather, he uses (and fully acknowledges) these biographies to distill their complex life stories into six sharply etched portraits.. (Globe & Mail 2009-10-02)
.[Bown] deftly interweaves detailed story and back story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessible style, he recounts the achievement -- and the same -- of those mercantile actors who 'changes history as significantly as the moist celebrated military generals, political leaders, and technological innovators did'.. (Calgary Herald 2009-10-03)
.Bown has shown once again that he has a keen eye for details and narrative that bring history to life, even for the impatient modern reader. In this tale, he profiles six men who were crucial to the establishment of international commerce in the 17th to 19th centuries.. (FastForward Weekly 2009-11-04)
.Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events. I started Merchant Kings on the plane one evening and didn't put it down until the Sun rose the next morning. I lost a night's sleep -- but it was worth it.. (Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada 2009-12-10)
.Stephen R. Bown introduces a cast of colourful and often unscrupulous characters. In the Age of Heroic Commerce, these merchant-explorers and the companies they ran, such as the Dutch East India Company, the Russian-American Company, and the British South African Company, ruled vast tracts of the globe, raking in unimaginable wealth. With the backing of their home nations, the companies deposed rulers, raised private armies, waged war and collected taxes.. (History Magazine 2010-02-01)
.The appeal...to 'broaden' Canadian history and consider it in the context of world events is evidenced in works such as Stephen R. Bown's Merchant Kings, which provides a very readable comparative look at six of the most prominent characters in trading companies that dominated world trade, commerce and colonial expansion...Whether they were truly Merchant Kings, or merely renegades in the wilderness, this book provides a very accessible glimpse into a fascinating era when companies more than countries ran the world and actions of individual men really did change it profoundly.. (Canada's History 2010-08-11)
.In the present age of wealth and excess, corporate greed and scandal, an ingrained culture of entitlement shared by senior executives and senior bureaucrats, and inexcusable poverty, inequity, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation, Bown's stories resonate with us today on a much more immediate level.. (Northern Mariner 2010-09-01)
.Bown has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the 'Heroic Age of Commerce'...[He] presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires.. (Publishers Weekly 2010-11-01)
.Bown has fashioned a chronicle perfectly relevant to our own timeóand ultimately shows us that a market is free only when those who live and consume within it are protected from the powerful.. (New York Journal of Books 2010-12-07)
.Engagingly written and refreshingly conversational, Merchant Kings brings a cohesion to such a large and unwieldy historical period, a period that both led directly to, and remains an integral part of, so many contemporary economic and political struggles. And he does so commendably.. (Post & Courier 2011-03-08)
.Bown's work laudably contributes to the aim of sustaining public interest in history.. (Ted Binnema Canadian Literature 2011-08-01)
Stephen R. Bown is the author of many critically acclaimed, award winning titles including most recently, Last Viking (D&M, 2012) which was named amongst the Globe and Mail Best 100 Books of the Year. Born in Ottawa, he now lives in the Canadian Rockies with his wife and two children.